Test Drive: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Midsize family sedan earns impressive gas-mileage estimate with new gasoline/electric powertrain, but price can easily climb past $30,000

by James M. Flammang

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Introduced for the 2006 model year, Ford's Fusion midsize sedan has been redesigned for 2010. Not only are appearance changes evident, but Ford has launched a brand-new hybrid (gasoline/electric) version that promises phenomenal gas mileage. Advertisements tout the Fusion Hybrid's estimated fuel economy, which is 41 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway. (Hybrids typically get greater mileage in the city, because the engine shuts off when stopped for traffic signals.) As a result, Ford calls the Fusion Hybrid "America's most fuel-efficient midsize car," beating the Toyota Camry Hybrid by 8 mpg in city driving.

Regular Fusion sedans come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, or a 3.0- or 3.6-liter V-6. The Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine that yields 156 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque, working with a 106-horsepower electric motor. Ford claims a total net output of 191 horsepower. Regular-grade gasoline is used, and the Hybrid has a 17-gallon tan. Rather than a conventional automatic transmission, the Hybrid uses an e-CVT continuously variable transmission, which has no regular gears.

Ford claims the new look is sportier and "more upscale." It's definitely a clean appearance, with a fresh front end that includes a domed hood and revised grille and headlamps. New underbody shields and aerodynamic modifications are supposed to boost fuel economy.

For a Hybrid, the Fusion delivers surprisingly spirited acceleration. Naturally, it's totally smooth and ultra-quiet as well. This Fusion also Handles and steers quite well: at least as nicely as a typical midsize family sedan. Ride comfort also compares to a conventional sedan, as the Fusion's suspension seldom transmits much nastiness to the interior.

This may be the most transparent hybrid car around. It's really difficult to tell when the gasoline engine is running, without studying the panel display. Engine shutoffs are barely noticed. Start-up after a stop is detectable, but barely so. According to Ford, the Fusion Hybrid can operate in pure electric mode (gasoline engiine not running) at up to 47 mph.

Trying reasonably hard, we averaged 43 miles per gallon in mixed but largely urban driving - several mpg above the EPA estimate. Then again, Ford says a Fusion Hybrid sets a world record, traveling 1,145 miles on a single tank of gasoline (averaging 81.5 mpg).

Sadly, the Fusion has a driver ergonomics issue, with the bottom of the dashboard positioned way too close to the brake pedal. The driver's foot could contact the dashboard periodically, which is distracting.

Visibility is excellent all around, but front headroom is marginal. Front seats are nicely supportive for thighs and back, and abundantly cushioned for comfort. Backseat space is so-so, and the center spot is simply awful: a hard seat that positions the occupant's head perilously close to the overhead light. Head-ducking may be needed to enter the backseat, too.

On the unusual instrument-panel layout, all-electronic gauges are quite helpful, once you're accustomed to them. The information display is diverse, but it demands some study to make the more effective use of the compiled data.

Trunk space is constricted somewhat by the hybrid components, but the glovebox is sizable. The available navigation system includes a big, clear screen, but it sits rather low.

Fusion Hybrid pricing starts at $27,270 (plus a $725 destination charge), which is close to the cost of the top-end gasoline-engine model. Adding a few options easily sends the total past the $30,000 mark.

Attention Editors: This complete 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid review is available now for your publication. Please contact us at JF@tirekick.com for details. (8/19/09)

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Text and photos by James M. Flammang